Fear of Children

In a scene cut from The Exorcist’s 1973 theatrical version, Jason Miller’s Fr. Damien Karras sits with Max von Sydow’s Fr. Lankester Merrin on the stairs of the MacNeil house, and the two Jesuits discuss why the child Regan has become a monster. Continue Reading »

Reformation Day

It was around two o’clock in the afternoon on the eve of the Day of All Saints, October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther, hammer in hand, approached the main north door of the Schlosskirche (Castle Church) in Wittenberg. There he nailed up his Ninety-Five Theses protesting the abuse of indulgences in the teaching and practice of the Church of his day. In remembrance of this event, millions of Christians still celebrate this day as the symbolic beginning of the Protestant Reformation. October 31 is not a day for the ghosts and ghouls of Halloween but a time to remember the Reformation, especially what Luther wrote in thesis sixty-two: “The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.” Continue Reading »

In Belgium, Two Types of Bishops

For at least half a century, the revival of Catholicism in its traditional heartlands has been a pastoral priority for the Church. In this regard, Belgium is an instructive case study. For decades, it was famed for theological adventurousness while parishes and seminaries emptied at a dizzying pace. However, during the primacy of Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard since 2010, priestly vocations there have surged and the Church has emerged out of the catacombs. He has drastically broken with recent Catholic history in his country. Now some ask: Is his style of leadership the remedy for Western de-Christianization? Continue Reading »

How to Succeed In Politics As a Businessman By Really Trying

A certain Georgia Senate seat has a strange and revealing recent history. 2008 was the ultimate Democratic wave year, but the Georgia Senate seat remained in Republican control after a runoff election. 2014 is shaping up to be a Republican wave year, but Republicans are left hoping to retain that same Senate seat based on President Obama’s unpopularity. The Georgia Republicans have gone from being able to resist a Democratic wave to depending on a Republican wave. Much of this variance from national trends has to do with the particular weaknesses of Georgia’s businessman-turned-politician Republican candidate: David Perdue. Continue Reading »

The Coming Methodist Revival?

These days, when outsiders consider Methodism, they tend to quickly assume that it is just withering away on its deathbed. But before checking for a pulse, observers ought to call to mind its history, particularly its vigorous beginnings. John Wesley preached to thousands from his father’s grave after being muzzled by the Anglican Church, and when the movement he spearheaded crossed the Atlantic, American Methodism spread on horseback as its dedicated circuit-riders expanded their territory along with the young nation. According to Roger Finke and Rodney Stark, in 1776, Methodists made up only a sliver of the religious pie, just some 2.5 percent of worshipers. By 1850, however, Methodism was by far the largest expression of Christianity in the United States, claiming over a third of all the nation’s religious adherents. Continue Reading »

Ehrman Errant

feel great pity for Bart Ehrman. It appears that the kind of fundamentalism in which the Christian believer turned biblical debunker was raised did not prepare him for the challenges he would face in college. He was taught, rightly, that there are no contradictions in the Bible, but he was trained, quite falsely, to interpret the non-contradictory nature of the Bible in modern, scientific, post-Enlightenment terms. That is to say, he was encouraged to test the truth of the Bible against a verification system that has only existed for some 250 years. Continue Reading »

The Five Stages of Grieving the Art of Jeff Koons

It is Sunday night, and the Whitney Museum of American Art has been open for thirty-some hours straight. The line for this last chance to see the Jeff Koons retrospective wraps around the block. Fittingly, these are also the last hours of the Whitney Museum itself, at least in its upper East Side manifestation (their new building opens in Chelsea next year). Visiting the hideous structure one last time is like reaching out to pet the old family dog before he gets put to sleep—only to have your hand bitten. The inverted ziggurat architecture has always been an exercise in anti-effort with the art to match. A longstanding top floor feature was Marcel Duchamp’s In Advance of the Broken Arma snow shovel the artist purchased and declared art by fiat. Once elusive, the meaning is now clear. Here is the tool that has authorized the Whitney to pile it high. Koons’s towering mound of polychrome aluminum Play-Doh, the highlight of the show, is the simply the crest of the heap. Continue Reading »

The Passion of Pregnancy

In quiet hallways and private corners, I’ve made my confession to trusted friends. Guilty and ashamed, but seeking solace, I have admitted the truth: I hate being pregnant. Now, in the throes of my sixth round of this freely chosen misery, I have decided to speak openly. We religious types rarely, if ever, publicly address the real burden that pregnancy puts on women. Instead, we jump ahead to the value of the life she carries. Unless we find ways to acknowledge this aspect of the experience of women, our defense of the truth that every human life has value risks ringing false. Continue Reading »